June 30, 2013

Third Blogathon Complete. Check. *Happy Dance*

I did it!

In the middle of a cross-country move and book marketing, I managed 30 days of blogging. Look for a post next week on what I learned.

But, today is our last theme day.

From Michelle Rafter's Blogathon website...

June 30 – Word Cloud Day. Use Wordle or another word cloud tool to turn your words into a picture. If you’re not sure what a word cloud is or how to create one, read these instructions. Then go relax, your blogging work for the day — and month — is done.

No, relaxing for me, because I'm in San Francisco trying to pick a house in a seller's market. Oh, and I need to focus on promoting my YA book, Chasing Memories.

But first...

Congratulations to all the Blogathon-completers!

June 29, 2013

Focused Writing Vs. Distractions: Blogathon, Day 29

It's Saturday and Day 29 of the WordCount Blogathon, so I thought I'd share a comic from the lovely Debbie Ohi. Check out her website for some great writer-themed comics.

One that caught my eye...

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.
This is so me.

I sit down with the best of intentions, and then I jump over to the Internet to check out a grammar issue or research something. Next thing I know, I am distracted by every bright, shiny light... Facebook, Twitter, email, breaking publishing news. The list goes on and on.

I've learned to take my laptop to a park or any place without a Wi-Fi connection to really get focused writing time.

How do you stay focused?

Hope everyone is having a lovely Saturday!

June 28, 2013

Thoughts from a Hot Shower: Blogathon, Day 28

First, get your minds out of the gutter.

This morning, I was in the shower (see first sentence again) and wanting that perfect hot temperature. As I do most mornings, I kept adjusting it slightly only to either be a bit too cold or a bit too hot.

Then it hit me (no, not just the water)... my struggle to find the perfect temperature is much like finding that sweet-spot of tension in a story. You can't go full out and scald your poor reader, but you can't freeze them out of the story either.

In addition, when you first get in the shower, several factors affect how the water feels to you even if you always set it exactly the same. Are you coming into the shower from the pool? Are you just getting out of a warm bed?

Like in our stories, the reader comes from different perspectives. Maybe they just read a romance novel. Or, they might have just put down a crazy thrill ride of a suspense novel.

Tension is such an important element of story. As much as I love building characters, readers can't relate to a simple background story about a person. They need to see that person challenged in some way, fighting some kind of literal or figurative demon.

The trick is to make sure the reader doesn't fall asleep or walk away. And you can't have the same level of tension for the whole book; it should ebb and flow. That's where my analogy ends, because once I reach that perfect temperature in my shower, I don't play with it.

If you have too much tension for too long, do you put the book down and take a break? Or, are you a reader who likes constant heart-pounding thrills?

June 27, 2013

Tightropes, Legos & Househunting: Blogathon Day 27

This week, my family and I watched Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. My youngest saw the commercial touting the event and declared it family night viewing.

For those that missed it...

Although I was frustrated with all the pre-show (lasting about an hour and a half), it was amazing to watch the actual feat. But also terrifying.

I joked with my mom recently that wherever I am, I imagine a way a character could die in the same situation. Watching Nik Wallenda, my imagination wasn't even challenged. However, I was impressed with myself when I imagined how someone might perish on the Disney monorail.

Couldn't I be one of those writers who imagined how any geographic location could turn into a hot and heavy and romance instead?

But I digress, my daughter was so impressed with Wallenda that the very next day she made a Lego scene to honor him.

So cute that I had to share.

Today, I'm heading to San Francisco. It's crunch time... we need a house. Wish me luck! And let's hope I can quiet my imagination while I'm on the airplane. *eek*

June 26, 2013

Reader Consideration Vs. Savvy Business Moves

As both a writer and an avid reader, sometimes the reader takes over. Heck, most of the time the reader drives the writer. The more I read, the more I want to write.

But, today I have on my reader hat, and I'm mulling something over and would love some other readers' (even if they are also writers) thoughts.

Recently, my email heralded the newest book by Cassandra Clare. I read the first three of the City of Bones trilogy, but my 13yo daughter has read every single book by her and has been asking for more reading material for summer. So I thought I'd surprise my dear daughter by downloading a new book to her Kindle. When I went to look the book up, I saw that it was part of a series I had somehow missed.

Call me excited!

Not only was the price ($2.99) excellent for Book 1, but the description sold me: Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices know that Magnus Bane is banned from Peru—and now they can find out why. One of ten adventures in The Bane Chronicles. (from Amazon)

I purchased.

Then, and only then, did I look into the other books. I ventured over to Cassandra Clare's website and found some great information about The Bane Chronicles here. Then, some important words jumped out at me... short stories.

What? (note: it was in the Amazon description if I had read two more paragraphs)

The books range from 40-50 pages on average.

I know traditionally published books are more expensive than all my indie favorites, so I should have been wary of the $2.99. And I have no problem with Cassandra Clare issuing some ebook-only short stories for her fans, but $29.90 for ten stories that are 40-50 pages each... I'm just not so sure how I feel about that.

Upon further research, I came across an article about Cassandra Clare and her father, a successful author and business school professor, and the left-brained side of me was impressed. She's in the business of writing. I respect that, truly.

But, as a reader, I'm still left with a sour taste in my mouth.

Help me, please. Which side of me should win.. the BBA grad who respects smart business choices that allow writers to make a living or the reader who feels a bit taken advantage of?

June 25, 2013

Nook No More?

Barnes & Noble reported today that Nook sales fell 34% in the last quarter (source). Since eBook sales now comprise roughly 23%* of the publishing market according to this article., this decline seems like bleak news for the retailer.  

Where does this leave the Nook?

There is no clear answer. Rumors started that Microsoft, already an almost 18% owner, would purchase the Nook brand. But then several articles I pulled up announced that B&N was simply stepping aside to let Amazon and Apple duke it out.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the coming months. I am a Kindle owner (first generation), and I have Kindle apps on my iPad and iPhone. Although I still love the feel of a paperback, I think eReaders are here to stay--as are eBooks.

In the spirit of competition and reader choice, I do not want to see Nook go away. So let's hope that whatever happens is what's best for writers and readers alike.

Please share your thoughts about this news. I'd particularly love to hear from some Nook users.

* This number does not clearly state how much indie published eBooks count in the total, or if they do at all.

June 24, 2013

A Novel Haiku: Blogathon, Day 24

One of my favorite parts of Blogathon each year is Haiku Day. And I'm so not a poet. But I find the structure and rules associated with Haiku freeing. Free verse is too unstructured for me, and I am like a fish out of water... flailing by the computer.

June 24 - Haiku Day. A day devoted to writing a three-line poem — who knew this simple throwback to grade-school English class could be so popular? Yet in the two years since we added it, it’s become one of the highlights of the month. Pick the topic of your choice and write about it in this Japanese poem form.

This year, I thought I'd try my hand at Haiku about my YA book, Chasing Memories. Let me first share the synopsis...

There isn’t another way; not now. The others are coming. I can’t let them have you…

Seventeen-year-old Reagan has a problem: she can’t remember what happened the night her brother was taken. Now, the dreams haunting her from the incident are becoming more intense by the day. All the while, the lines between what’s real and what’s a product of her paranormal-obsessed mind are becoming blurred.

Is she losing her mind or has she just stepped into a world she thought only existed in books?

Caught in a web of worried parents, competing boys, Wiccan relatives, protective amulets, and psychiatrist babble, Reagan must determine the truth before it’s too late.

Chilling Darkness

Chilling darkness masks
the terror of that evening
where everything changed

Reagan must embrace
all she believes and some things
she has yet to know

In order to save
herself and others she loves
from drowning in loss

I hope you enjoyed my Chasing Memories haiku, and I can't wait to read everyone's Haiku today. 

June 23, 2013

Paper Versus Paperless: Blogathon, Day 23

My dad sent me a hilarious video that played on the ebook versus paperback debate... or more simply put, the electronics versus paper debate.

I think Emma made her point.
Even though reading on the Kindle/iPad is growing on me, I can't imagine ever going completely paperless.

Where do you stand on the paper versus paperless debate?

June 22, 2013

Saving Old Books: Blogathon, Day 22

Old books don't always hold up to the ravages of time. Sadly.

And even if they do, we can only keep so many of them.

As a kid, I loved Nancy Drew. I read every book about her that I could get my hands on. I even saved a few to pass onto my kids (the old ones had such cooler covers than the newer ones -- it's like the old Scooby Doo compared to A Pup Named Scooby Doo).

Recently, my mom came across this amazing journal in a book store in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

A group had made journals out of old hardcover books with plain paper and the occasional picture page from within the story. My mom found a Nancy Drew one for me.

I think it's a lovely way to repurpose old books, especially ones that might be partially damaged on the inside. As someone who loves to read in the bath, I have been known to drop a book or two and end up with some messed up pages.

(Note: Don't worry. I don't read with the Kindle in the bath.)

Now, I'm even more inspired to write some scenes for the sequel to my YA book... because now I can write them in the pages of a book that inspired me.

What book would you make into a journal that you loved as a kid?

June 21, 2013

Interview with Julie Thomas, Author of The Keeper of Secrets

World War II is a terrifying and horrific time in our world's history. Two of the books that have most affected me in the past year have been set in this era: The Book Thief and Winter Garden.

Recently, I was able to add another book to this list... Julie Thomas' The Keeper of Secrets. An excerpt from my review:

Weaving between the present and the past, Julie Thomas does an amazing job of creating memorable characters and an unforgettable, at times heartbreaking, story. I've read many amazing books based in the WWII era, and The Keeper of Secrets finds its own place among the best of them. Intense and emotional, there's still room for hope, love, and courage.

Read the full 4.5-star review here.

So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Julie about the book.

Without further ado...

Is The Keeper of Secrets based on a true story?

Yes, it is. I found the story of the violin in a magazine article and to the best of my knowledge, the one missing 1742 del GesÅ­ violin is (potentially) in a private collection and the owner won’t verify his ownership, the other one was identified with a label date change and restored to 1742. So the events in the story are very much based in fact.

World War II is such an intense and devastating period in our world's history. What kind of research did you do to try and get an accurate depiction of life in the concentration camps?

I read lots of accounts on the internet, I looked at footage in TV programs, the “Band of Brothers” series had a liberation of a concentration camp episode and I watched that several times, I read books written by survivors, I found the camp map on the internet which gave me the location of the various buildings. Every fact was researched and backed up by two sources.

Several generations are affected by music, particularly a violin, in this novel. Why was it so important to have music signify hope and salvation?

I have a passion for music and it has helped me through difficult times in my life. I believe in the power of music to uplift and to heal and bring people together. The music was a binding force between different people at different times in the book and it helped to unify the components, having music as a strong thread in all four sections helped the book come together.

I thought you did an amazing job writing from mostly the male perspective. Which character was closest to your heart and why?

Thank you. Interesting question. I love Sergei because he has so much personality and is the antithesis of the country in which he grew up, but I would have to say my favorite character is Rafael. I call him my moral compass, he stands solid while other people try and change his determination for selfish reasons. Without him, the story would not happen and I also love the way he talks to Daniel, they have some of my favourite dialogue.

Thanks so much, Julie!!

To find out more about The Keeper of Secrets and Julie Thomas, please visit the author's Facebook page and on GoodReads.

Note: Although this interview is published on my Mom in Love with Fiction review page today as well, I wanted to share it here for two reasons. First, I loved the book. Second, I thought the author's responses were wonderful.

June 20, 2013

Transported Into the Pages: Blogathon, Day 20

Wow, it's day 20 of Michelle Rafter's 2013 WordCount Blogathon.

One thing I've learned about blogging more frequently is that it helps to have theme days. I've tried some over the last two years, and I do them a while and then get burned out. 

But Disney has inspired a new one. 

I want to start writing a new feature... Into The Pages. I'm not sure yet if it will be a weekly or bi-weekly feature. Guess it will depend on my reading inspiration.

The idea... write a post about being transported into the world of a book I've recently read (or one I love). Essentially, what I would like to learn from being trapped in a book for a day and becoming one of the main characters.

For example, I would spend a day with Trudi Montag in Stones from the River. I can only imagine all the life lessons I would learn by walking in her shoes for one day--courage, strength, and determination.

What character would you like to be for a day?

June 19, 2013

Round 2 Reflections: ROW80

Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) has been productive. I published my first young adult book, Chasing Memories. I survived editing, cover design, publishing, and starting the promotion process. 

Yet, I would still say I didn't get done what I wanted to. But, I shouldn't say that anymore. It's my daughter's pet peeve.

Every day (or so she would say) after school, my oldest will ask what I did that day. And I say, "I got a few things done, but not everything I wanted to." One day recently she announced that she wasn't going to ask me anymore, because I always said the same thing.

It made me realize that I have to be easier on myself with goals and expectations. Or at the very least give myself credit when I accomplish something instead of always focusing on what I'm not getting done.

Round 3 is going to be an opportunity for me to find balance. I need to improve my social media presence (it's been slacking with publishing), crank out book #2, and promote book #1. And I need to come up with manageable and measurable plans to accomplish these goals.

Oh, and I'm returning to sponsoring. Yeah, me.

What did you learn in Round 2 of ROW80?

Or, if you are a visiting Blogathoner, what have you learned so far from blogging every day this month?

June 18, 2013

Sizzling Summer Giveaway

I'm so excited to be part of this amazing YA/NA giveaway. If you'd like to host my new YA novel, Chasing Memories, please sign up. Thanks!

YA Bound Book Tours is organizing the Sizzling Summer Giveaway event featuring 50 authors!  This giveaway event will take place July 22nd to July 27th.  If you would like to participate to host this event on your blog, please fill out the form below.  Please select 3 authors you would like to host and we will do our best to accommodate.  (Note that you are not guaranteed the author you pick).  Bloggers will receive a promo post provided by author (excerpt, dream cast, playlist, character interview, etc.) book info and rafflecopter giveaway code for 2 Kindle Fire HD's pre-loaded with some of the author's books.  Rafflecopter will have an entry option to follow your blog as a thank you for hosting.  Blogger chooses the date they would like to post.  All information will be sent to you the week before the event starts.

Participating Authors:

Rachel Harris

Trisha Wolfe

Alyssa Rose Ivy
C.C. Hunter
Bethany Lopez
Cindi Madsen
Tiffany King
Juliana Haygert
Raine Thomas
Laura Howard
Patrice Michelle
Jennifer Snyder
Carrie Butler
Andrea Heltsley
Jennifer Lane
Shannon Duffy
Devyn Dawson
Nazarea Andrews
Cherie Colyer
T.M. Franklin
Dawn Pendleton
Lisa Sanchez
Morgan Wylie
Eliza Tilton
Liz Long
Meradeth Houston
Dawna Raver
Erin Danzer
Lisa Collicutt
E.J. Wesley
A.K. Morgen
Elle Chardou
Lara Schiffbauer
Jaycee DeLorenzo
JD Nelson
Sharon Bayliss
C.R. Everett
Thea Gregory
Brandice Snowden (not shown)
Nicki Elson
Diana Castilleja
A. W. Exley
Krystal Wade
Elizabeth Sharp
Krissi Dallas
Tia Bach
Jamie Ayres
Michelle Muto
M.R. Polish